Food Workers Deserve a Fair Share
Guest Post by Diana Robinson, Campaign & Education Coordinator, Food Chain Workers Alliance
This past week has been very challenging for me as a daughter of Afro-Caribbean immigrants and as an organizer for social, economic, and racial justice. The policies that Donald Trump has said he will enact would devastate so many communities - immigrant, Muslim, black, LQBTQ, and many more. And for food workers, who are already paid the lowest hourly median wage in the U.S. at $10 per hour, their poverty wages and poor working conditions will likely get worse. But I have hope that we can fight back.
On Monday November 14, 2016, as part of our International Food Workers Week, the Food Chain Workers Alliance co-released our new report No Piece of the Pie: U.S. Food Workers in 2016 with our partner the Solidarity Research Cooperative. The findings in the report aren’t that promising. They include:
The 21.5 million people who work in the food system make up the largest sector of workers in the country. 14% of all workers in the U.S. work in the food system.
U.S. food chain workers are paid the lowest hourly median wage compared to workers in all other industries - $10 per hour. The median wage across all industries is $17.53 per hour. The 2015 U.S. livable wage is $15.12 per hour, before taxes.
Thirteen percent of all food workers, nearly 2.8 million workers, are relying on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (food stamps) to feed their household in 2016. This was 2.2 times the rate of all other industries, a much higher rate than in 2010 when food workers had to use food stamps at 1.8 times the rate of all other industries.
Twenty percent (4.3 million) of food workers are food insecure, compared to 13 percent (15 million) of total U.S. households.
Significant racial and gender wage gaps exist in the food system. For every dollar earned by white men working in the food chain, Asian men earn 81 cents, Latino men 76 cents, Black men 60 cents, and Native men 44 cents. White women earn less than half of their white male counterparts, at 47 cents to every dollar. Women of color face both a racial and a gender penalty: Asian women earn 58 cents, Latina women 45 cents, Black women 42 cents, and Native women 36 cents for every dollar earned by white men.
But we also interviewed 20 workers from 15 of the Alliance’s member organizations. Their stories of organizing and the victories they’ve won inspire me and give me hope that in the long run, workers, with the support of allies, will be able to improve their wages and working conditions.
And now, more than ever, we need to unite together. The Food Chain Workers Alliance is committed to joining with our brothers and sisters from all communities - immigrant, people of color, LQBTQ, Muslim and other faiths, women, and all who face oppression under Trump and his allies. During this International Food Workers Week, you can take action to support food workers, and sign up for our list to stay up to date on food workers and the broader social justice movement.